Academic journal article Public Administration Research

Management "In Between": The Operative Manager in Governance Networks

Academic journal article Public Administration Research

Management "In Between": The Operative Manager in Governance Networks

Article excerpt


This article discusses operative management in public governance networks. Drawing on case studies from public governance networks in Norwegian city regions, the article investigates the political preconditions for operative management, by asking how the role of the operative manager in governance networks is structured and affected by the preconditions granted by public authorities. The study demonstrates that operative managers hold an "in-between" role, between network members as well as between the network and public authorities. This role is though affected by structural conditions granted, in both positive and negative ways. Arguing for a flexible public authority intervention in governance networks, the article also emphasizes the importance of transparency and continually evaluating of the operative network management. Operative managers can hold an important role in forging a common understanding among stakeholders, as well as coordinating resources. Important in this respect is time, adequate funding and administrative support, all of which will affect the conditions required for the operative manager and the governance network to perform effectively within the framework of democratic politics. Lessons from the Norwegian cases indicate that public authorities should be aware of the significance of the operative management role. This "in-between" manager can strongly affect network processes and network outcomes. The role an operative manager performs can provide a useful tool to use resources efficiently. It can also provide a key mechanism for finding the proper authority intervention and thereby balance network efficiency against the need to retain democratic influence and control.

Keywords: operative manager, metagovernance, governance networks, city regional development, efficient- and democratic governance

1. Introduction

The public sector's active role in shaping and managing governance networks is becoming a major topic of research (e.g., Agranoff, 2007; Vangen & Huxam, 2003; Koppenjan & Klijn, 2004; Sørensen, 2009; Herranz, 2010). Public governance networks are based on trust and negotiations between a set of public and private actors, who seek better solutions to public policy issues through collaboration (Agranoff, 2007; Skelcher & Sullivan, 2008; Sørensen & Torfing, 2009; Farsund & Leknes, 2010). The need for hands-on management in these situations is significant but challenging. First is the challenge of balancing diverse interests, and second is the challenge of balancing efficient performance within the framework of democratic politics (Agranoff, 2007; Head, 2008; Sørensen & Torfing, 2009).

This article addresses these challenges by focusing on preconditions for the balancing role of the operative manager in public governance networks. The operative management role reflects "hands-on" network management (Sørensen & Torfing, 2009; Head, 2008) and is referred to as the manager in action who coordinates daily activities (Hill & Hupe, 2007; Agranoff & McGuire, 2003; Sullivan & Skelcher, 2002). The basic notion of this position is that the operative manager holds an "in-between role," balancing public authorities and political strategies on one hand and diverse network participants on the other. Drawing on three case studies from development policy processes in Norwegian city-regions, the aim of this article is to investigate the structural conditions ("the playing field") for operative network management and discuss impacts on the "in-between role" in balancing diverse interests toward efficient and democratic solutions. The research question posed is: "How is the operative manager's role in governance networks structured and affected by the preconditions granted by public authorities?" The managers' precondition and playing fields is understood as the metagovernance strategies of public authorities and the basic characteristics and tasks at hand of the network to be managed (Sørensen, 2009). …

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